Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Evil Baby

The evil baby. You know the one I am talking about. Always manipulating his parents. Always waking up at inconvenient times to eat. AGAIN. Always crying when he needs his diaper changed or when it is cold or hot or uncomfortable. Always wanting to be held.

This may sound ridiculous, silly, even mean, but when we examine some of the twisted teachings of baby trainers we may find that though they don't come right out and say that they hate babies, underlying all their talk, it seems they may in fact think that they are a little....evil.

Before I get started I should probably admit some of my own bias. I believe that babies are born innocent. Babies are perfect, pure and amazing creatures. Human, but yet to earn any human foibles. They come with personalities certainly- some are "easy" others more sensitive or fussy. Though they have distinct traits, they are not bad, mean or manipulative.

Speaking of manipulation, lets look at the definition for that word, just so we know exactly what we are talking about. The Internet furnished this definition:

"adjective /məˈnipyələtiv/  /-ˌlātiv/ 

  1. Characterized by unscrupulous control of a situation or person
    • - she was sly, selfish, and manipulative

  2. Of or relating to manipulation of an object or part of the body
    • - a manipulative skill"

I mention this because it is commonly asserted by those who seek to train babies that babies are manipulating their parents. This is why they cry, make a fuss, wake up, and what not. Certainly babies do in fact try to get what they want: love, food, warmth, attention, and care. They do this by various things, one of which is crying. I would assert however that their desire to be fed or whatever should not really be described as manipulative. They are not unscrupulous or selfish or sly, they are simply trying to survive. And, as fairly helpless beings, they do what they can, what they have by history and genetics been programmed to do so that those who care for them will actually CARE for them.

What do I notice when I start to read about how to properly sleep train my baby?

1. The focus is often on the parent's needs, not the child's and focus particularly on routines.

I would be the first to admit that any mother must meet some of her own needs before she can properly care for a child. You can't feed another when you yourself are starving nor can you be a fantastic mother when you are totally sleep deprived and crazy.

Yes, parents have needs. Sleep is one of these needs. Routines are actually a good thing for children. But guess what- children will make their own routine. Really- they do this. And no they have not been reading "Save Our Sleep" or "Baby Wise."

I have four children. They have all, after a few weeks and without my forcing anything, settled into a sleep routine. They often wake at the same time, nap at around the same time, and feed at certain times. This is normal and natural as evidenced by the fact that a nursing mother will quickly start to produce milk or notice her letdown just before her baby wakes. They have not mastered a scheduling technique- they have just found their own unique rhythm, as nature intended.

May you find it somewhat difficult despite this to perfectly orchestrate your life, doctor's appointments, date times, etc? Yes, possibly. But part of being a parent is losing yourself in it, learning humility and learning sacrifice. Is learning to sacrifice, serve, and love another a bad thing? Is doing this for our children proof that they are master manipulators? Personally, I think not.

2. They must self soothe.

Over and over again when reading about sleep methods I find advice to not nurse the baby to sleep, bottle feed it to sleep, have it rely on a thumb or pacifier or special blanket or anything else to go to sleep.

Really?

REALLY?

So, not only should you not sleep with your baby, nurse him to sleep or be anywhere near him, even artificial soothers should be avoided. Heaven forbid your baby want to be rocked to sleep! How dare you!

What on earth is so wrong with being soothed to sleep? You could probably make the argument that even full blown adults soothe themselves or are soothed to sleep. Maybe they sleep best with their partner there, with music in the back round, in their own bed, or after reading for a few minutes. People need each other, they need love, and yes, they need to be soothed. Babies are no different.

3. Routines are fairly rigid, even for very young babies, and are set forth by a supposed expert.

If I were to write a parenting book it would be short. It would not make any money and it would never make me rich. Here is the basic layout:

Chapter 1- Listen to your instincts and to your baby. Forget about all the experts. Really- they usually just get in the way and make you nervous.

Chapter 2- When your instincts are not working for you or when you are just frustrated, talk to other loving mothers whose children are functional, loving, and what you would like your children to become. Mother to mother wisdom can be very powerful and helpful.

The End.

There would be no three or four hour feeding schedule. There would be not set amount of time to nurse. There would be no prescribed nap schedule or anger over the manipulative or non compliant baby. No- there would just be you and your baby getting to know and learn from EACH OTHER- not from a book.

I am not saying that a routine is totally useless. In fact, as mentioned before, babies tend to make their own routines. And, knowing that life is stable and rhythmic I think is actually very comforting to a baby or a child or anybody. But some babies need to nurse often. And even some babies that nurse less often SOMETIMES need to nurse more often. Listen to your baby. This is one of the beauties, the joys, and yes- sometimes even the difficulty of being a new mother. It can be hard to know what they need. It takes time, stillness and trusting yourself, but it can be done. Reading a book that delineates a schedule for ALL babies is not how it is done.

4. They seem to think that all babies are the same.

Well, some people are going to hate me for this, but I have noticed that some of these sleep experts have either no or only one or two children.

Let me give you a brief rundown of my children and their baby sleep habits.

Baby 1- Nursed often (like every hour or two) and for long periods, woke often, had colic for three hours a night from 6-12 weeks. Preferred to sleep with mom and dad. Didn't sleep through the night until almost three. As my first experience with motherhood and babies at all, I really and honestly could not read his cues very well.

Baby 2- Nursed about every three hours and quickly. Would only take one breast at a time. Absolutely would not sleep when being touched or in bed with mom and dad. Only nursed when hungry- never comfort nursed. Sucked her thumb and got attached to a blanket. Slept through the night by two months.
(Had I written a parenting manual at this time, I would have been very annoying. I was sure I had figured it all out and had created the perfect sleeper with my expert ways! Go me!)

Baby 3- Nursed well. By now I had stopped paying attention to when and how often and how long, but just could tell when she was done and when she was hungry or tired or whatever. Did not sleep well. Would wake and scream- not in pain, just in irritation that it wasn't play time. Would wake every two hours well past the age of one.

This was my reward for thinking I had figured it all out. In our bed- in her bassinet next to our bed, in another room- whatever- made no difference. She just didn't much care for long chunks of sleep. Swaddling, nursing, anything I tried- it just didn't work.

Baby 4- (She is still little.) Has been a good sleeper. Will wake a few times during the night but goes back to sleep. Likes to sleep in our bed. Naps well. Has made her own routine.

My point- kids are really just DIFFERENT. They don't read books and they don't always conform to them either.
~
The trick of mothering isn't finding the expert who can train our babies. The missing link is not learning to control that evil or manipulative child. The trick is to learn our own babies. The point is to grow WITH them. I am not advocating permissive or completely child centered parenting. We must find a balance. But we must also realize that we miss the beauty and the empowerment of mothering when we learn it from books, rather than from ourselves and from our children.

Babies are not evil or manipulative. They are simply trying to communicate with us in the only way they know. Let's start listening.





20 comments:

Guggie Daly said...

I think it is accurate to assert that they believe babies are somewhat "evil" and that is in fact the foundation for many of these trainers.

They have twisted Christian values and the Bible to promote the idea that babies have "evil" in them (through a twisted idea of original sin/concupiscence) and thus the parents must train/punish the child to get rid of the evil.

It's, um, psychotic. Only way to put it. They must think they are little Jesus Christs, casting demons out of their children.

I hope people have the sense to realize these abusers do not represent true Christianity.

madasaspoon said...

Baby Wise is definitely religion based. But lots of other baby books are not. Either way the authors are just broken people, and the people BUYING this tripe are broken too...

Nome said...

Great Post.
Blaming it on religion or not (baby-wise or Tizzie Hall) the baby is still the loser.

Evin said...

This drives me crazy. I have two little ones under two and I constantly hear "Just let them cry, they'll never learn otherwise!" Learn WHAT, exactly? That mommy doesn't give a shit? Sorry, that's not something I EVER want my babies to learn.

If you saw a woman sobbing, heartbroken, on the street and said "Oh, just let her cry." -- what kind of horrible person would you be? Why is that kind of cruelty okay for a baby??

Mama Birth said...

I think this is a serious underlying theme to most baby training- weather religious based or not- viewing the mother/infant relationship as adversarial and the child as something that can be controlled. At this point I think that the idea of the bad baby is so pervasive that it touches all in our society, religious or not. And truthfully, babies can be frustrating. But whenever I read this tripe it just seems like it would make being a mother more difficult and confusing. UGH!
Sorry for the rant and thanks for all of your comments!

mommadawn said...

Well as a christian mother of 9 children I will say everyone of them are their own person. Each one differant as God intended them to be. I know the verses and have been told them many times because I choose to not strike my children or let them cry it out. They are all lovely children some more "work" than others but each one fearfully and wonderfully made. Number 9 well she is almost 10 months and nurses every 1 and half hours since birth. Takes naps on me or her sisters, sleeps with me as do 2 of her other sisters(they do have their own beds) and is carried or worn almost constantly. I love it and so does she!! She also eats a little finger food so I can let others know she is not starving:) and no she does not take a bottle or a sippy it's all mama!! The Lord hears our cries and helps us so why would we ignore our childrens cries?

Joy@WhenDoesDaddyComeHome said...

*APPLAUSE*

Couldn't agree more!!!

Banned From Baby Showers said...

Sarah, I swear I wrote this! Do we share the same brain? Better, do we have the same children?! One boy, followed by 3 girls who sleep identical to each other? Seriously, you described all 4 of my babies sleep habits IN THE SAME ORDER! Great post.

Mama Birth said...

I know donna- it is creepy-Only you have more money than me, and better hair....

carriegenealogy said...

The predator seeking it's prey always goes for the weakest. That's what they're doing. Looking for insecure parents who have been taught by the media that women cannot give birth and cannot raise their own children. They have been robbed of natural instincts. Bravo for another great post!

JolieFille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JolieFille said...

As a first time mom, I know I looked to one of the most popular book series out there, "What to Expect..." After reading the first two months in the "What to Expect: The First Years," I stopped reading it. Not only did it make me panic that my baby wasn't developing in the same manner as the book indicated, I tried to do some of the things it mentioned with my daughter and they just didn't work. I was 100% more successful to work with my daughter, to learn her cues than it was to try and implement some silly schedule with her. It's too bad that so many people feel they need to turn to these books and "experts" for help rather than listening to their own instincts.

Too Tired For Witty said...

Thank you. I'm a 21 year old mother of an active, advanced, beautiful 11 month old who is still breastfed, we co-sleep (sidecar crib), my bf is 23. To see the say we're treated by family, strangers, and medical professionals, you'd think we were 12 year olds playing house and couldn't possibly have any idea what we're doing, thus ruining our son by feeding him, comforting him, or, imo, just basically caring for him. I even shared this article on my fb (pointedly, although I'm pretty sure none of the intended audience read it).

Also, thanks to this article and a few others I've chosen to share with a couple of my friends who are relatively young, but like-minded moms, I have converted them to interested blog readers :)

Luisa Caraballo - Massage Therapist said...

There was an article recently about how you shouldn't let your baby 'cry it out'. Scientific study was done and it showed that letting a baby 'cry it out' to train them was actually hindering their ability to deal with stressors in later life. It affected some cells in their brain. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-01-mom-good-child-brain.html

As an infant massage instructor myself, I talk to parents and other caregivers about how to communicate with their babies. How they should rust their intuition and how they are the experts on their baby. Thank you for posting such a touching article on your blog. I will be linking to it on my facebook page as encouragement to my clients.

Thank you.
-Luisa
http://www.melrosemuscletherapy.com

AngLea said...

Thank you so much for your blogs. Since discovering them I have felt so much better within myself that I'm doing the right thing for my baby (as frustrating/ tiring/ painful on back, legs & shoulders, as it is).

Just about everyone gives you advice when your pregnant or have a child and many times I've been told to do certain things (like "it's ok to let them cry for a bit, it exercises their lungs" WTF? And read this book, it's the best thing that helped my baby (Save our Sleep) which I flicked through and hated) which just didn't feel right. A friend suggested one book in particular to me "The science of parenting" which I have read and am so passionate about its not funny (my mum think I'm obsessed). It goes into more detail of what you talk about but more on what happens in the brain and why things like "cry it out" are not good for development (as mentioned above). What are you thoughts on it? Have you heard/read it? I want my husband & mum to read it but they won't (insert typical excuses here) and I want fellow pregnant friends and new mums to read it too but I dont want to come across pushy.
Hopefully my posting your blogs will at least give them snippets of information I want them to know (if they even bother to look).
Thanks again. From Australia.

GondolaQueen said...

I dunno. I agree with *some* of these points. Yes, children are all different. Yes, they need to find their own routines, but if your child decides that 2 am is the best time to wake up every night- then be awake for six hours? No. I have 3 kids, and the middle of the night is NOT the time for them to be up and playing.

If they wish to be, they will be doing it alone. Crying, or no crying, I'm not getting up to play.

Me getting up, picking her up, singing to her- well all of that IS telling her that 2am is an interactive time. We all know that children learn like sponges- if you do something every night for a week straight, it becomes a 'habit'- not manipulation, a habit, which is a learned behaviour- if you go pick them up, I DO believe YOU are training your child to continue, because they get a positive response (interaction).

I think ALL parenting has to be based on what feels right. And giving into my childrens' every whim does not seem right to me. So, no, I don't agree with all of this. You do what you do, that's great. I'm a big supporter of every parent doing the best they can and doing what feels right. But this isn't right for me. I'll do what I do- all my kids know I love them more than words could possibly describe.

GondolaQueen said...

Also, I just want to point out that I believe babies ARE selfish. They are supposed to be. They don't care if you haven't slept, or if you are tired. They are physiologically INCAPABLE of worrying about something other than themselves. So, yes, a baby can manipulate- but they aren't doing it to be mean, or sly. They are doing it because they are intrinsically selfish, and they are just trying to stay alive- and since they are not capable of worrying about someone else (you, your sleep or your sense of self) they achieve their goals (food, comfort, play) in any way they can. And I don't think that's 'wrong' of them, I just think it's a true statement of fact (to my mind).

Rebecca said...

Wonderfully said!

CortneyCrum said...

i think this is a load of crap. every child is born innocent! its the parents that make the baby the way it is. yeah at first they arent used to a wet diaper and stuff, but if you constantly pick your baby up, they are gunna want to be constantly held. you are horrible for even calling you child an evil baby! Christianity is not displayed this way! being a christian you should know that every child is made perfect! did you ever think maybe you were the one that needed help?! you need jesus christ our lord and savior! if you truly had him, you would never call his creation evil!

GondolaQueen said...

If you had *actually* read her post, you'd see that she NEVER said that. She doesn't agree with the child training method at all. You need to re-read what she actually said before you leap to assumptions.

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